JBL MS-8 optimizes your car's stock audio system

If JBL's MS-8 integrated digital processor performs the way its manufacturer claims it does, being stuck with a stock car stereo may not mean that you're stuck with the stock sound.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
2 min read
JBL by Harman Audio

JBL claims that it can take your car's stock stereo from "meh" to "wow" by installing this single box (and it's included accessories). JBL by Harman Audio

Upgrading your car's stereo used to be a simple affair. You'd yank the radio out, pop in a new receiver, and be back on the road listening to your new tunes within a few hours. However, with today's increasingly integrated car technology setups, removing the stereo could affect other seemingly unrelated vehicle functions, rendering your climate controls useless or activating a vehicle immobilizer system. However, if JBL's MS-8 integrated digital processor performs the way Harman International, JBL's parent company, claims it does, being stuck with a stock stereo may not mean that you're stuck with the stock sound.

The JBL MS-8 installs between your stock stereo and its speakers, accepting inputs from up to eight discrete audio channels. Once installed--and with the help of the included binaural microphone headset--the system analyzes the audio characteristics of your car audio setup and your car's acoustics. It then applies a bit of digital signal processing (DSP) equalization and time correction magic in an attempt to optimize the frequency response, bass performance, dynamics, clarity, detail and stereo imaging of the sound for your specific vehicle and equipment. Once the MS-8 is done with its optimization, you can then use the included display and wireless controller to further fine-tune the sound to suit your preferences.

Full specifications for the JBL MS-8 are as follows:

  • Graphic equalizer with 31 bands can override automatic equalization to suit personal taste
  • Memory stores calibration settings for up to four seating positions
  • Digital crossover function allows precise, user-selectable crossover points and crossover slopes for up to eight separate outputs
  • Logic 7 technology creates the ideal 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround-sound experience from two- channel source material
  • Preamplifier controls manage system volume, subwoofer volume, left/right balance, front/rear fader and bass/mid/treble tone controls, and override DSP equalization, time correction and Logic 7 processing
  • Favorite settings store up to five custom settings for one-button recall
  • LCD display includes five-line, 128x64-pixel screen that displays setup menus and operation status
  • Wireless RF remote controls menu navigation, volume, and mute function
  • Other features include onboard 20W x 8 amplifier, eight channel preamp-level and speaker- level inputs and outputs, and full-range stereo auxiliary input

Though JBL is pushing the MS-8 as a way to boost the performance of an OEM stereo, it should work just as well with aftermarket car audio rigs. We've previously seen similar audio optimization technology from Alpine's PXE-H660 system with Imprint technology. Of course, JBL claims that its newer system is more advanced than Alpine's. We hope so, because at an MSRP of $799, the MS-8 is about $250 more than the competition. Nobody ever said that good sound would come cheap. For more information, check out JBL's MS-8 micro site.